Motion for a resolution - B6-0046/2007Motion for a resolution



to wind up the debate on statements by the Council and Commission
pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure
by Francis Wurtz, Ilda Figueiredo and Helmuth Markov
on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group
on the input to the Spring 2007 European Council in relation to the Lisbon Strategy

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European Parliament resolution on the input to the Spring 2007 European Council in relation to the Lisbon Strategy

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 12 April 2005 on the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs (2005-2008) (COM(2005)0141),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 July 2005 entitled ‘Common actions for growth and employment: the Community Lisbon Programme’ (COM(2005)0330),

–  having regard to the 25 national Lisbon Reform Programmes as presented by the Member States,

–  having regard the 2006 implementation of the Commission's Community Lisbon Programme,

–  having regard to the Commission's ‘Employment in Europe 2006’ report of 6 November 2006,

–  having regard to the Commission's autumn 2006 economic forecasts of 6 November 2006,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 November 2006 entitled ‘Modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century’ (COM(2006)0708),

–  having regard to the Commission proposals of 10 January 2007 concerning energy policy and climate change,

–  having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Lisbon European Council of 23 and 24 March 2000, the Stockholm European Council of 23 and 24 March 2001, the Barcelona European Council of 15 and 16 March 2002, and the Brussels European Councils of 22 and 23 March 2005, 15 and 16 December 2005 and 23 and 24 March 2006,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 9 March 2005 and 15 March 2006 on the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy,

–   having regard to Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

Sluggish Growth, high unemployment, increasing poverty and inequalities - an EU portrait, 7 years after the Lisbon Summit

1.  Notes with deep concern that since 2000 the EU has been plagued by sluggish economic and employment growth, a transfer of productivity gains from workers to employers and the persistence of high levels of unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, precarious work and income inequality; notes that, in contrast, the profit share as a proportion of GDP in the Euro area is currently close to its highest for at least 25 years, whilst the wage share has been declining decade by decade;

2.  Notes that the average economic growth in EU-15 has decelerated decade after decade; recalls that since 2000 average economic growth in the EU has been 1.4%, below the 2.6% of the period 1991-2000; notes that forecasts point to a new deceleration of economic growth after 2006, showing that the recovery should not be taken for granted;

3.  Notes that from 2000 to 2005 the EU's number of unemployed increased by one million, in parallel with a huge increase in precarious work, more than 4.7 million workers with fixed-term contracts and at least 1.1 million more in involuntary part-time jobs; stresses that, even if forecasts that point to a reduction in the unemployment rate are confirmed, it will still persist at an unacceptable level of 17 million unemployed in the EU; notes that 25% of the workforce are under atypical types of contract (fixed-term, part-time, on-call, zero-hour, temporary agencies and freelance), 41% if the self-employed are taken into account, which shows how precarious labour conditions have now become in the EU;

4.  Points out that income inequalities have risen since 2000, the ratio between the 20% richest and the 20% poorest increased from 4.5:1 to 4.8:1; recalls that after 2000 average real wage growth in the EU dropped to 0.7% in comparison with the 1.2% average growth of the period 1995-2000; stresses that since 2000 workers have transferred 33% of their productivity gains to employers;

5.  Notes with deep concern that at-risk-of-poverty rates have increased from 15% in 2000 to 17% in 2004 for EU-15, which means an increase of almost 9 million poor in the richer countries of the EU; points out that in the EU there are about 72 million people below the poverty line and almost half of them at risk of persistent poverty, with an unacceptably high number of poor being children and elderly people;

The consequences of neoliberalism - a break is needed with current economic and monetary policies

6.  Stresses that the Lisbon Strategy defined by the European Council of March 2000 – which had the clear support of the major European employers' organisations, UNICE and ERT – has been the main tool within the EU to promote the liberalisation and privatisation of public utilities and services, the flexibility and adaptability of labour markets, wage moderation and the opening-up to private interests of the bulk of social security provisions, including pensions and health; regrets that the so-called revival of the Lisbon Strategy in 2005 accentuates even more the neo-liberal content and recalls that this content has been translated into concrete national reform programmes by all Member States, putting at risk the social dimension and disregarding the economic, social and environmental problems faced by the different Member States in the EU;

7.   Stresses that the Community's Lisbon Programme and the national reform programmes in the framework of the revised Lisbon Strategy are a tool to provide national justification for and push forward the same structural reforms in all the Member States, in particular as regards the labour market and social security, which will have serious economic and social consequences, strengthened even more by the integrated guidelines and the Stability and Growth Pact; considers that these reforms will jeopardise the rights of workers, pensioners, public-service users and consumers;

8.  Notes the Commission’s Annual Progress Report and regrets the bias that the Commission shows in its fundamental priorities towards unlocking business potential and private investment, in particular by:

  • (i)providing justification for further privatising social security, reducing social benefits and increasing the statutory and effective retirement age,
  • (ii)insisting on further flexibility in the labour market with the new concept of ‘flexicurity’ on a par with ‘employability’, in line with the recommendations of the Commission's Green Paper on Labour Law,

   (iii)   connecting investment in research and development and education to the whims of the free market and thus justifying the commoditisation of knowledge, education and research (Bologna process),

  • (iv)insisting on the liberalisation of the energy markets and giving overarching priority to the conclusion of the internal market in services;

9.  Stresses that the Lisbon Strategy has been largely unsuccessful in achieving its proclaimed goals of average economic growth of 3%, full employment by creating 20 million new jobs and achieving an overall R&D expenditure of 3% of Community GDP; notes that, according to Commission data, the average economic growth has been almost half the target rate, the number of jobs created have been about a quarter of the target (without taking into account the quality of the jobs created, the growth of the labour force and the existing high unemployment figure) and R&D expenditure has been below 2% of GDP at the same level as in 2000;

10.  Stresses that the ongoing process of liberalising markets and privatising public utilities has not brought any visible gains in terms of prices, service quality or a reduction in public expenditure; notes, on the contrary, that consumers’ and public-service users’ associations have reported price increases, a drop in the level of service quality and increases in the cost of provision; notes, furthermore, that liberalisation has contributed to the destruction of jobs in the sectors affected and the creation of private monopolies that put the rights of workers, public-service users and consumers at risk;

11.  Considers that monetary and fiscal policy in the EU has been restrictive, with its overarching objective of price stability and budget consolidation in line with the Stability and Growth Pact; stresses that the process of nominal convergence towards the Euro and what followed has had a negative impact on economic and employment growth, on social and economic cohesion and real convergence between the Member States of the EU, on public investment, putting at risk the current meagre economic recovery and the fight against unemployment;

12.  Draws attention to the deep-rooted struggle and resistance of workers, consumers and public-service users against the ongoing process of liberalisation and labour and social security reforms, and calls on the Spring European Council to take this into account and incorporate the proposals being put forward by trade unions, public-service users’ associations and consumer organisations;

13.  Regrets the agreement reached by the December 2005 European Council on the financial perspective for 2007-2013, in particular the reductions in the structural funds (from 0.41% of EU GNI to 0.37%) and in the social, environment, research, culture and education programmes; regrets the shift of objectives in line with the priorities stated in the non-ratified 'European Constitution' on competition/competitiveness, security and militarisation, in particular the earmarking of at least 2/3 of the amounts of cohesion policy to finance the Lisbon objectives; considers that an average expenditure level 1.045% of EU GNI is far from sufficient to cope with the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the enlarged EU and its cohesion needs;

14.  Points out that the reduction in the weight of the EU budget, as already started in the last financial perspectives for 2000-2006 (Agenda 2000), where the own resource ceiling was maintained for the first time in spite of the enlargement to 10 new countries with an income per inhabitant of about 40% of the EU level; regrets that the 2007 budget has followed the same trend as the budgets since 1997 of reducing the level of EU budget expenditure to a value near 1% of EU GNI and below the ceilings of the financial perspectives; recalls that the US federal budget is about 18/20% of its GNI and that various economists point to levels two- and fourfold higher for the EU budget if it is to make a meaningful contribution to investment and redistribution inside the EU;

A new strategy, a new path for Europe - full employment, decent jobs, living wages, social and economic cohesion and social protection for all

15.  Considers that a break is needed with current EU polices if we wish effectively to address the problems of sustainable economic growth, unemployment, poverty, social exclusion and (income) inequalities; stresses that a new strategy is needed to set a new path for Europe, a path of full employment, decent jobs, living wages, social and economic cohesion and social protection for all that guarantees the highest living standards; a path that pays heed to the development needs of each Member State, in particular the less developed, that promotes real convergence and helps reduce the development gap between Member States and existing economic, social and regional disparities;

16.  Considers that the EU must place at the top of its political agenda the questions of wealth creation (increased productivity), redistribution (the fight against income inequalities) and exclusion (the fight against unemployment); notes the key role of 'work' in addressing all these questions;

17.  Calls, therefore, for the Lisbon Strategy to be replaced by a European Strategy for Solidarity and Sustainable Developmentbased on the abovementioned principles, with a new set of economic, social and environmental policies that encourages investment:

  • (i)in the quality of work in all its aspects (wages, stability, working conditions and training) and improving qualifications, in order to achieve a highly trained and skilled workforce,
  • (ii)in basic and industry-supportive infrastructure,

   (iii)   in public services, in order to improve their quality,

  • (iv)in a strong cohesion policy, in order to promote social and economic cohesion,
  • (v)in the protection of the environment and in eco-technologies,
  • (vi)in improving labour, social, environmental and safety standards, in order to achieve harmonisation to meet the highest standards,

   (vii)   in the social economy,

   (viii)   in social protection, in order to eradicate poverty and fight against social exclusion,

  • (ix)in (public) research and innovation, in order to guarantee its benefits to all,
  • (x)in the promotion of culture and civil participation,
  • (xi)in the progressive dematerialisation of the economy;

18.  Stresses that this new strategy for the EU requires a macro-economic framework that is supportive of sustainable development, strengthened environment-friendly internal demand based on progressive wages, full employment with rights and social and economic cohesion; asks, in this context, for growth- and employment-supportive monetary and fiscal policies that lead to a combined, flexible and coordinated expansionary fiscal policy for the EU and its Member States, based on:

  • (i)a relaxation of monetary policy by the ECB and its institutional reform, based on democratic accountability, political control and economic and social concerns, translated in specific growth and employment-targeting to be introduced in parallel with a change in its overarching objective of price stability,
  • (ii)the revocation of the Stability and Growth Pact in parallel with the establishment of an Employment and Growth Pact which will foster public investment, improve efficiency and set specific economic, social and environment criteria tailor-made to the particular needs of each Member State, in particular targeting unemployment reduction,

   (iii) a coherent European investment strategy by creating an ‘EU investment programme for sustainable development and employment’ of at least 1% of EU GDP, which should complement Member States' similar public investment efforts; stresses that the financial perspectives for 2007-2013 must lead to a genuine increase in the EU budget in order to contribute to this programme and asks for its revision,

  • (iv)the creation of a monetary compensation fund in the Euro area to react to asymmetric economic shocks;   

19.  Calls for a new social policy agenda whose objectives should be the following:

  • (i)the development of an inclusive and cohesive society, which presupposes measures in favour of stable employment and respect for workers’ rights,
  • (ii)the promotion of a society based on gender equality and the combating of all forms of discrimination,

   (iii)   distribution of the wealth created so as to enhance the wellbeing of everyone, which presupposes publicly provided, universal welfare systems and guaranteed, universal access to high-quality public services, including health, education and housing,

  • (iv)a social policy which takes account of all groups,
  • (v)participatory democracy as a component of the various social and employment policies;

20.  Calls for a new environment policy agenda whose objectives should be the following:

  • (i)the decoupling of economic growth from the parallel growth of energy, natural resources and raw materials consumption in parallel with its reduction,
  • (ii)support for Member States' regulatory frameworks and monitoring systems that prevent economic environmental externalities, in particular pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,

   (iii)   support for investment that promotes reduction of waste, the re-use and recycling of materials, as well the reduction and treatment of hazardous industrial and toxic waste,

  • (iv)the promotion of cleaner and safer transport systems, with investment in quality public transport,
  • (iv)investment in eco-technologies, eco-innovation and eco-efficiency;

A new strategy for better wages, reduced income inequalities and poverty eradication

21.  Recalls the importance of a progressive wage policy to boost internal demand, promote social inclusion and fight income inequalities; regrets that EU policy sees wages as a cost and not as a part of national income that through spending could sustain economic and employment growth; regrets in that context the fact that wage moderation continues to be one of the aims of the integrated guidelines in line with the inflation-target price stability of the ECB;

22.  Considers that statutory minimum wages are an essential tool of income redistribution policy, guarantee a minimum floor for wages and incomes, helping the fight against wage and incomes inequality, working poor and poverty; asks for a firm commitment from all EU Member States to implement statutory minimum wages; calls for a coordinated increase in the amount of the statutory minimum wages in each Member State;

23.  Is concerned by the high number of workers who, in spite of receiving wages, still lie below the poverty line; calls for an EU commitment to eradicating the so-called working poor by 2010;

24.  Notes the high level of income inequalities in the EU and stresses its connection with the high level of wage inequalities; calls for an EU commitment to halve income inequalities by 2010 as expressed by the S80/S20 and S90/10 structural indicators and asks the Spring European Council to set this target;

25.  Notes the high level of poverty in the EU and the need to eradicate it; calls for an EU commitment to halving the EU at-risk-of-poverty rate and eradicating child poverty by 2010; regrets that the recent Commission spring reports, European Spring Council conclusions and the national reform programmes do not give priority to social inclusion; asks for the inclusion in the structural indicators of an at-risk-of-poverty rate based on the 70% median income;

26.  Notes that monetary poverty could be fought with instruments like social minimum incomes paid by the Member States and stresses that the establishment of a social minimum income at the poverty level would eradicate monetary poverty; asks the Commission to present a specific communication on poverty, the means to fight it and how the EU budget could complement measures at Member State level;

A new strategy for full employment, quality of work and job protection

27.   Considers that employment-targeting should be a mainstream concern of all EU policies and a fundamental objective of economic and monetary policy; stresses that work represents not only a source of income, but a fundamental aspect of social inclusion in all areas of society, as well an element of personal development; notes that in 2005 the employment rate in the EU-15 was 65.2% and in the EU 63.8%, far from the Lisbon Strategy objective of 70% in 2010; asks for an EU commitment to achieving this target and asks for the next Spring Council to increase the 70% target for the employment rate by 5 percentage points; stresses that employment increases do not necessarily lead to unemployment reduction, therefore considers that unemployment-targeting should also be an EU priority and asks for an EU commitment to reduce the EU average unemployment rate by 4 percentage points by 2010;.

28.  Rejects the new concept of ‘flexicurity’ introduced by the Commission as part of the strategy connected with the Lisbon Strategy and the Green Paper on Labour Law Reform, which is defined as combining sufficiently flexible work contracts with coupled labour market policies that support switches from one job to another, i.e. the adjustment of labour (and wages) to the business cycle with the public employment services of the Member States assuming the costs of labour recycling and rotation; considers that this concept, in parallel with the ‘employability’ concept, places responsibility for finding a job on the worker; stresses that both concepts promote labour market deregulation and the liberalisation of firing, jeopardising social cohesion and the quality of work; alerts to the fact that behind this strategy is also the purpose of reviewing unemployment benefit schemes with the aim of reducing benefits and their duration;

29.  Stresses that there is a contradiction between promoting a flexible labour market and precarious jobs and the need to promote the quality of work in all its aspects; notes that labour market reforms have been followed by a decline in productivity growth; calls on the Commission to produce a communication on the connection between the quality of work and productivity;

30.  Regrets that most of the national reform programmes concentrate only on ‘more’ jobs, neglecting ‘better’ jobs – the other side of the coin; stresses that the promotion of quality of work in all its aspects has not been properly tackled in the Annual Progress Report or in the national reform programmes and considers that this should be a priority for the EU because it is deeply connected with the quality of life, social inclusion and productivity; calls on the Commission to set up a specific Community programme to complement national actions to promote quality of work and share best practices, with the adequate financial means;

31.  Calls on the Spring European Council to establish as a target that half of the percentage of EU employees with fixed-term contracts will have a permanent contract by 2010 and to create a special scheme of incentives to promote job stability, complemented by the EU budget; asks the EU and the Member States to develop measures through labour market policies to create opportunities for full-time jobs for involuntary part-time workers; calls for an EU commitment to reducing involuntary part-time work;

32.  Stresses that, of the active labour market policies, only training has a significant impact on aggregate labour market outcomes; points to the need for the ESF to continue to give top priority to training adapted to the specific needs of each Member State and its concern that the earmarking of the structural funds for the Lisbon strategy will shift money from training actions to other active labour market policies; insists that the percentage of workers in training actions is still too low and private business has not contributed enough to training promotion; asks employers to give top priority to training and create the conditions for on-workplace training; considers that training hours should be considered as working time;

33.  Stresses that improving working conditions is an essential aspect of ensuring the quality of work; is deeply concerned at the flexible work arrangements to adapt the workforce to the production cycle, the effects of schemes like lean production and the speeding-up of work on workers' health and accidents at work; considers that the Commission's proposal on the revision of the Working Time Directive, if carried, will aggravate the present situation; calls on the Commission to produce a communication on the impact of current EU proposals concerning labour on workers' health;

34.  Calls on the EU for a strong commitment to working-time reduction, without lowering wages, to create new employment and increase productivity; calls, therefore, on the Commission to withdraw its proposal on the revision of the Working Time Directive; calls on Member States to coordinate efforts to gradually reduce working time by 2010 and stresses the short-term objective of a 35-hour week; considers that the reduction of working time, without lowering wages, should be seen as an aim in itself and a measure of societal well being;

35.  Considers that the on-going revisions of labour law, atypical work contracts, the mobility of capital and high unemployment undermine the power of trade unions; stresses the importance of guaranteeing strong trade unions and their rights as an indispensable process to balance the uneven relationship between capital and labour and supporting any employment-targeting objective in economic and monetary policies;

A new strategy for solidarity and an improved Welfare State

36.  Insists that, in order to build a broad coalition for change, a new strategy must seek to improve, rather than weaken as envisioned by the Lisbon Strategy, the welfare systems (guaranteeing social protection in case of sickness, retirement, unemployment and other forms of social need) and must not exert downward pressure on social standards; considers that this should be a firm commitment towards solidarity in the EU;

37.  Stresses that a public and properly financed social security system, covering the risks of life and work, with a pay-as-you-go public pension system to guarantee social protection and solidarity in and between generations should form the basis to the Welfare State; is deeply concerned at the fact that the main guidelines of the second-generation national strategy programmes for sustainable pensions are biased towards the privatisation of welfare, an increase in the pension age and a reduction in the level of benefits;

38.  Considers unjustified the pressure exerted by the Commission and the Council through the Lisbon Strategy to further dismantle/privatise the public pensions pillar and increase the effective and statutory retirement age; rejects any attempt to increase the statutory retirement age; denies the myth of an imminent collapse of pension systems and considers that the problems that could exist will be equally presented in any capitalisation or private account system of social security, aggravated by the increased financial risk due the volatility of the financial markets, given that this is due to economic and employment pressures;

39.  Stresses that the best way to tackle the sustainability of social security is through the achievement of full employment with rights, a progressive wage policy, the full integration/legalisation of migrant workers, a more egalitarian distribution of incomes, sufficient productivity growth and a coordinated fight against undeclared work; considers that it is important to ensure and increase employers’ contributions to social security; stresses the need to find new instruments to finance public social security schemes, like taxing financial transactions on capital markets;

40.  Stresses that the means to finance social security should be updated, taking into account the technology developments and the contribution of capital-intensive business to national income; considers that labour-intensive businesses are penalized by a merely wage-based contribution system to social security; thinks that a complementary resource based on the firm’s added value could help to guarantee more fiscal justice and guarantee new financial means to the social security system;

41.  Stresses that policies are needed to achieve equality for women and men (e.g. equal pay, parental leave, access to quality employment) and to create better conditions for reconciling employment and private life; notes the need for enhanced educational and social infrastructures for young and elderly people alike, including increased (and better) facilities for learning, (affordable) childcare, nursing care and care for the elderly; reminds the Member States of the commitment that they entered into at the Barcelona Summit in 2002 whereby, by 2010, they are to provide day-care places for more than 33% of children under the age of three and for 90% of children between the age of three and school-starting age and asks for it to be fully enforced and upgraded;

42.  Insists on the need for measures to combat discrimination, notably via new legislative initiatives in the field of the rights of women, immigrants and persons with disabilities, and stresses the need to strengthen the link with the ESF to provide the necessary funding for the latter and ensure that national parliaments, NGOs active in the above areas and labour-market players can genuinely participate;

43.  Recalls the Commission strategy for new sources of jobs, in particular by promoting local Community-based services, public services, social services, personal services, cultural services and environmental professions; it is deeply concerned that this strategy could be used up to create sub-employment and ‘mini-jobs’ with low pay levels, to mask unemployment; considers that this strategy should have a focus on the quality and stability of the jobs created so that this does not result in the creation of ‘mini-jobs’;

44.  Considers that immigration policies should promote successful economic and social integration of migrants, which could also contribute to the sustainability of social security; considers that a successful policy of immigration also is also dependent on the implementation of a comprehensive and proactive strategy to achieve full integration, covering a range of social, economic and civic measures;

A new strategy for strengthened public services and regulated capital markets

45.  Rejects the strategy of deregulation, privatisation and liberalisation promoted at EU level by the Commission and the Council; considers that a new strategy should focus on more and better public services, the strengthening of the state's role in regulation, participation and intervention in the market and a better regulatory framework, in particular on capital markets;

46.  Recognises the importance of public services and the provision thereof for the promotion of social, economic and territorial cohesion in the EU; strongly criticises the bias against the state as a provider of services of general interest and calls for public goods to be placed under the management of the public sector; regrets the extended use of public-private partnerships and their promotion at EU level, in particular with regard to the structural funds; stresses that these partnerships are being used as a cover for privatisations and undermine the provision of public services;

47.  Regrets the approval of the Services Directive, concerning the liberalisation of services in the EU, and warns against the consequences of its implementation; recognises the importance of the services sector for economic growth and job creation, but takes the view that the liberalisation of services promotes labour deregulation, and social and environmental dumping, and jeopardises public services, jobs and social and consumer rights; stresses that governments are losing their regulatory and monitoring role in respect of service provision by foreign enterprises on their territory, contributing to further deregulation of the market; rejects the artificial division of economic and non-economic services of general interest and stresses that this is a way to put public services under the scope of the directive;

48.  Insists that the ongoing liberalisation of public services and public utilities should be stopped immediately; asks the Commission to provide a thorough study on the impact of liberalisation so far on prices, quality of services and jobs;

49.  Considers that current cost-effectiveness assessments or ‘competitiveness’ assessments as proposed under the better legislation initiative are biased towards business interests and have as a main goal the withdrawal of any legislation that jeopardises competition or business profitability and promote deregulation; considers that impact assessments should not call into question the initial objectives of proposed or established legislation, in particular in the field of labour protection and social, environmental and consumer rights;

50.  Insists on the need to create a regulatory framework at EU level to penalise relocations of firms inside and outside of EU; considers that public aid, at national and EU level, to enterprises should be linked to long-term commitments by them in terms of regional development and employment and that no aid should be granted that could be used to promote relocations; asks for a strengthened role for workers' representatives on firms' executive boards and in structural management decisions;

51.  Stresses the increased risks of financial crisis due to the deregulation of capital markets and their increased volatility worldwide, with an increase in ‘casino’ activities that pose a permanent danger to the real economy; rejects the deregulation envisioned in the action plan for financial services included in the Lisbon Strategy;

52.  Stresses that the creation of a small sales tax on each financial transaction - shares, bonds, currency and derivatives -, in the spirit of the Tobin proposal for currency markets, would penalise short-term acquisitions, reducing speculation and the volatility of financial markets; considers that this proposal with also give governments a tool to intervene directly on financial markets; stresses that this could also provide additional funding to fight tax base erosion and alleviate the tax burden on labour; recalls that an imposition of a tax of 0,5% on each financial transaction, with different levels concerning the risk of the financial instrument, could provide an amount equal to the EU budget annually; calls on Member States to coordinate efforts to create such a tax;

53.  Asks for a better and stricter regulatory framework for banks and other financial institutions; considers the importance of 'cash-holding' instruments or margin requirements, which implies that financial institutions retain a part of their loans and investments in cash; considers that this type of instrument could be used to intervene on the loan policy of banks, in particular by permitting the use of such 'cash-holdings' at discount-interest rates for micro-credits, micro and small enterprise financing and social projects, like social housing;

54.  Notes the problem of tax evasion and erosion and its impact on revenue and budget losses at national level; calls for a firm commitment from the Member States to abolish tax havens and off-shore activities inside the EU by 2010 and asks the Council, the Commission and the Member States to make a firm commitment to abolishing tax havens and off-shore activities worldwide;

A new strategy for investment in research, education and innovation for the benefit of all

55.  Believes that an expansionary macro-economic policy must be geared towards promoting eco-innovation and R&D in order to achieve the overall policy of sustainable development and contribute to wealth and jobs creation; stresses the importance of publicly-financed basic and applied research to this end; believes that sustainable development will only be possible if increased demand and economic growth can be linked to strong reductions in the use of energy, natural resources and raw materials;

56.  Rejects the commoditisation of knowledge, education and research and is concerned that the Commission and Council focus on that; warns of the risk that only profit-maximised applied research with market opportunities will see the light of day;

57.  Considers that R&D investment should be geared to improving the quality of life and promoting sustainable development, and that the Seventh Framework Programme for Research 2007-2013 should focus on social sciences, the information society (including free and open-source software), preventive and public healthcare, food safety, control of chemicals, eco-technologies, sustainable development-related activities such as renewable energy and environmentally-friendly agriculture, such as organic farming; regrets that the Seventh Framework Programme for Research 2007-2013 priorities go in a different direction and regrets the cuts made in this area by the December 2005 European Council;

58.  Invites the Member States to redouble efforts on policy to encourage innovation and R&D in medium-sized enterprises, but also in the 20 million European small businesses which are spearheading economic growth and job creation in the EU; considers improved access for SMEs to the Seventh Framework Programme for Research as crucial for strengthening SMEs’ capacity to create jobs;

59.  Stresses the importance of increasing the overall level of education and qualifications of the population to promote innovation and foster R&D and considers that more investment in education at all levels and training is fundamental to this end; considers that the quality of education and training systems must be reinforced at various stages in life and access to higher education facilitated to all;

60.  Invites the Member States to focus first and foremost on the school dropout problem at primary and secondary level; considers that the EU school dropout rate of about 1 in 5 students is unacceptably high; calls on the Spring European Council to improve its previous commitments to reduce this rate by half by 2010; is concerned that the proposals launched by the Commission on the last Spring European Council to have specific targets to find jobs for early school-leavers will promote instead of reduce the school drop-out rate;

A new strategy for a coherent energy policy - reduce consumption, increase efficiency and investment in renewables

61.  Considers that energy and energy provision is vital to economic development and for the wellbeing of the population; stresses that energy is a public good and energy provision a public service; regrets that most national reform programmes and the Annual Progress Report give priority to pursuing the goal of liberalising the energy markets by July 2007 as agreed by Member States in the Council; recalls that this liberalisation could bring about price increases and put at risk public service provision;

62.  Considers that the Member States and the EU must make bold efforts to end their dependency on fossil fuels and reverse the current unsustainable trend; recalls that world peak oil was reached in 2004; stresses that ecological and social sustainability must be at the heart of EU and Member State public investment programmes; notes that investments should be geared towards promoting renewable energies, decoupling economic growth from energy growth, improving energy efficiency and promoting energy savings via the reduction of the overall levels of energy consumption and calls on the Spring European Council to deliver concrete actions in these fields;

63.  Stresses, therefore, that the EU should invest significant resources in realising the greatest energy-saving potential, while creating jobs at the same time in the sectors that will deliver the most in a short timeframe, in particular in the building sector, which accounts for over 40% of all energy use in the EU; recognises that a change in approaches to energy use should lead to a reduction by some 20% of current energy consumption in EU;

64.  Is aware that a coherent energy policy and long-term energy security is not possible without a rapid switch to renewable energies and calls for increased efforts to ensure that the established targets for electricity generated from renewables, biofuels and energy efficiency are fully met; regrets the lack of ambition of the Commission proposals of 10 January 2007 and calls on the Member States and the Commission to establish incentives and invest in renewable energies to fulfil and surpass the target share for renewable energies; notes with deep concern, therefore, that the percentage of renewables in total gross energy consumption is at the same level as in 2000; considers that renewable energies should be one of the main priorities of the Seventh Community Framework Programme on Research;

65.  Considers that the fight against climate change is creating economic and social opportunities which can help bolster the sustainable development strategy; points to the need for legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets; urges the Commission and the Member States to stress the need for climate protection when holding dialogues with international partners, especially the United States;

66.  Highlights the existing capacities for alternatives and the interrelation of energy, environment and agriculture – to the ultimate benefit of citizens and their quality of life, as well as to the economic sectors involved – in the framework of sustainable development; considers, nonetheless, that a proper balance should be achieved between food crops and energy crops to guarantee that food sovereignty and security is not put in jeopardy;


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67.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.